British holidaymakers have described being trapped on runways for hours or left to consider driving home from locations as far-removed as Turkey, after a major fault with the UK’s air traffic control system cast air travel into utter dissaray.
With around a million passengers booked to travel on bank holiday Monday, airports were briefly forced to suspend all flights to and from the UK after air traffic control systems went down in a “network-wide” computer failure.
By the time National Air Traffic Services (NAST) announced at 3:15pm that they had “identified and remedied” the technical issue which had forced controllers to input all flight paths manually, more than 500 flights had already been cancelled – rising to 1,200 by the day’s end.
The knock-on effects of such disruption on one of the busiest days of the year has resulted in the worst day for UK air travel since the Icelandic volcano eruption in 2010 – with pain for holidaymakers set to last for days to come.
The Independent has heard from dozens of passengers whose plans have been plunged into chaos, with many now left stranded in foreign destinations with no replacement flights available for several days – amid a desperate scramble for last-minute accommodation.
Concerned relatives back at home said they feared loved ones travelling with heart problems or conditions such as epilepsy could see their ailments exacerbated by the stress of waiting for hours on the tarmac, in airport lounges and in queues for luggage or information.
Many also warned they would miss out days of paid work as a result of the disruption, with others fearing they would miss important occasions they had hoped to mark with relatives overseas, including birthdays and the scattering of a loved one’s ashes.
David Hill, a 61 year old GP in Surrey, and his wife had been staying with friends in the south of France, and had been set to fly home from Nice at 7:45pm in order to be back for appointments with his patients from 8:30am until 7pm on Tuesday.
When their departure time changed initially to 6am on Tuesday, they booked a hotel for the night – but were told shortly afterwards that their flight had been changed again to 2am, before it was again shifted to 4:30am and eventually cancelled.
There are now no replacement…